More Horses Left Behind: Blame the Economy

By Beacon Staff

I read, “As Costs of Ownership Rise, More Horses Left Behind,” by Dan Testa in the Flathead Beacon printed on Jan. 14, 2009. The article points out that the three people who were interviewed say that, although the abandoned horse story is widely reported, it isn’t something that they’ve seen. Calls of “abandonment” lead to no such horses found. “Unfed” horse calls lead to hay just being covered up by the snow. The horses’ weight is fine. So I’m thinking … Where is the story? Why report on this? Then I see the underlying story. Horse slaughter.

I see article after article pointing to “end of horse slaughter in the U.S.” as being the cause of neglected and abandoned horses. The problem is that is absolutely false. Not only is horse slaughter for human consumption alive and well, but even more American horses were slaughtered in 2008 than when the three foreign-owned horse slaughterhouses were operating in the U.S. So much for the “lack of horse slaughter” theory.

So what is causing the “horses to be left behind?” Well, like the article correctly states, it is the economy. Hay (if you can even find it) is at an all-time high price, diesel fuel, grain, shavings – are all significantly more expensive. On top of that people are losing their jobs and their homes. Horses are expensive to maintain to begin with, but add on all these other expenses and, yes, you’re going to have people who are unable to afford their horses. If you can’t afford to humanely euthanize your horse by a vet (which costs less than a month’s board) you can contact your local rescue. Many are setting up low cost/no cost euthanasia options. Some are also setting up low cost/no cost hay distribution for hardship situations.

So what is wrong with horse slaughter anyway?

Well, for one, horses are not raised nor regulated as food animals in the U.S. They routinely receive medications that are banned from food animals such as Phenybutazone or “bute,” the aspirin of the horse world. In fact, more than 70 percent of legal horse medications are either illegal in food animals or have never been tested for human consumption and are simply labeled, “Not intended for use in horses, intended for food.”

If you’ve read any of the articles about U.S. horse racing lately, you know how many drugs are in their systems. Steroids, lasix, etc. … With the slaughterhouses’ own slogan, “Seven days from stable to table,” you can see that no withdrawal times are being observed (note: there is no acceptable withdrawal time for “bute” according to U.S. and European Union laws).

Secondly, it is un-American. There are/were no American-owned horse slaughter houses. They are a predatory industry that feeds on our over breeding practices and cheap horses. There is no market for horse meat in America. Horse slaughter is in no way humane nor a “disposal” service. These foreign companies are in the business of producing meat for fancy European dinners. They are not a charity. They’ll take any horse with meat on its bones that is cheap enough for them to make money. They don’t want diseased horses, skinny horses, hurt horses that can’t make the trip, ill-tempered horses that will injure the others, etc. These foreign slaughterhouses are in it for one reason: money. And they’ll get our US horses to the slaughterhouse in any way they can (gouge their eyes out if the horse won’t go), using the cheapest methods (double-deckers). See for yourself: at www.kaufmanzoning.net (all 900+ pages).

American horsemeat is often marketed in foreign countries as if it were organic – free-range and grass-fed. In reality, the customers are getting quite the opposite – meat from horses that are traumatized, often inhumanely killed, ex-pets, ex-work horses, ex-race horses, all states of pregnancy, regardless of care, regardless of feeding practices (or lack thereof), regardless of health, regardless of transport practices, regardless of medications.

Horse slaughter for human consumption is against the morals of Americans. Contact your representative today and ask them to support HR 503, the bill that will ban horseslaughter for human consumption.

Lori Hackman lives in Geneva, Ill. She is a horse owner and advocates on behalf of horse welfare. She is not affiliated with any groups.